Sen. Susan Deschambault Courtesy photo

Whether graduating from kindergarten, eighth grade, high school or college, achieving this feat is no easy task. Students have to work hard, tackle challenges and savor their successes to get to the finish line. Graduation ceremonies are a time-honored tradition we practice to recognize these students for their achievement. While we are used to sitting in gymnasiums or football fields shoulder-to-shoulder to clap for our friends and family, the world had something different in mind for the Class of 2020.

Graduation will look and feel different this year as we learn to adjust and modify what was considered normal, due to the coronavirus pandemic. For high school graduates, most of them were not born when September 11, 2001, happened. They were still in elementary school when we weathered the Great Recession. But no one, from kids to grandparents, have had to experience graduating from school in a pandemic. These students learned how to transition to virtual classes and proms on Zoom, in addition to the other innumerable tweaks they were forced to make to their lives for the safety of themselves and their families.

Despite this, the pandemic cannot change the strength and fortitude of our communities to come together and make the most memorable graduation ceremony for our graduates. From lawn signs to Facebook posts, I have seen parents, teachers and families go above and beyond to make sure the 2020 graduating class gets the special recognition they deserve.

Biddeford High School is hosting their graduation ceremony at the Saco Drive-in on Wednesday, June 17 with a pre-recorded video. Students, teachers, administrators and parents have been working together to film the students receiving their diploma on Waterhouse Field at Biddeford High School, and the graduation speakers have also prerecorded their speeches. This graduation drive-in will ensure that these students can close out their last year of high school with a bang, while staying safe.

Massabesic Middle School has planned a parade for their eighth-grade graduating class on Thursday, June 4 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Students and their families will celebrate by driving a route around Massabesic Middle School. People are encouraged to carry signs, draw on their cars and hold balloons to show their excitement for these students. At the beginning of the school year, no one could have guessed that this was in store for these eighth graders, but I know it will be a blast.

I know many other schools have devised fun and new ways to celebrate their students during this unprecedented time. The elementary schools in RSU 57 have organized “Appreciation Parades” to let kids see their teachers and show how much they care about them and miss them. The videos of Alfred Elementary School and Lyman Elementary School, with the teachers waving and honking their car horns at their students, are too cute.

I would be remiss if I did not thank our all of school employees — our teachers, school administrators, support staff, food service workers, bus drivers and janitorial staff — who have all demonstrated their commitment and dedication to their jobs and to the children they take care of through these celebrations and parades, and I’m sure much more.

I am proud of our communities. The drive-in graduation and the parades show the creativity of our neighbors and capture what the end of the school year is all about: coming together to celebrate and honor the students who have worked so hard to reach this milestone. Even though this year was harder than most, you persevered. Congratulations!

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